Christmas - Through Past to Present!


Christmas Vibes!

It is Christmas today, on the last Saturday of the last month of the year, 25th December 2021.

Christmas is the festival of Christians celebrating the birth of Jesus. The word Christmas means “mass on Christ’s day”. Since the early 20th century, Christmas has been celebrated as a secular family holiday, with the elaborate exchange of gifts and devoid of Christian rituals. In this secular Christmas celebration, a mythical figure named Santa Claus and decorated Christmas tree have become symbols of celebrations. 

In the olden days, the Christian community differentiated between the birth date of Jesus and its ceremonial celebration. During the first two centuries of Christianity, there was strong opposition to celebrating the birthday of Jesus. Most of the Church Fathers were of the opinion that it is more appropriate to celebrate the day of martyrdom for Jesus, which is the true “birthday,” from the church’s perspective.

Why is Christmas celebrated on 25 December?

The precise origin of assigning December 25 as the date of birth of Jesus is unclear. There is no clue even in the New Testament in this regard. December 25 was first identified as the date of Jesus’ birth two thousand years ago by Sextus Julius Africanus in 221 and later it was accepted universally.

It is like the Christianization of the celebration associated with the winter solstice, which is taken as a symbol of the resurgence of the sun, by  casting away the winter, and rebirth of spring and summer. After December 25 had become widely accepted as the date of Jesus’ birth, Christian writers frequently made the connection between the birth of the Son and the rebirth of the sun on the winter solstice. 

A second view suggests that December 25 became the date of birth of Jesus’ by reasoning that identified the spring equinox as the date of the creation of the world and the fourth day of creation, when the light was created, as the day of Jesus’ conception (i.e., March 25). December 25, nine months later, then became the date of Jesus’ birth. 

Do you know that for a long time January 6th was observed as Jesus’ birthday in conjunction with his baptism?

For those who use the Julian calendar, Christmas corresponds to January 7 on the Gregorian calendar. The churches of the Oriental Orthodox communion celebrate Christmas on dates other than December 25. For example, in Armenia, the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion, the church uses its own calendar; and celebrates Christmas on January 6.

Christmas Tree - Tree with a root!

Symbol of Christmas Celebrations -The Christmas Tree 

The Renaissance humanist Sebastian Brant recorded, in Das Narrenschiff (1494; The Ship of Fools), the custom of placing branches of fir trees in houses. There is uncertainty about the precise date and origin of the tradition of the Christmas tree, it appears that fir trees decorated with apples were first known in Strasbourg in 1605. The first use of candles on such trees is recorded by a Silesian duchess in 1611. The Advent wreath—made of fir branches, with four candles denoting the four Sundays of the Advent season—is of even more recent origin, especially in North America. The custom, which began in the 19th century but had roots in the 16th, originally involved a fir wreath with 24 candles (the 24 days before Christmas, starting December 1, but the awkwardness of having so many candles on the wreath reduced the number to four. 

The intense preparation for Christmas that is part of the commercialization of the holiday has blurred the traditional liturgical distinction between Advent and the Christmas season. You all must have seen newspapers, TV commercials, and online advertisements based on Christmas themes.

Feast with Family and Friends

Towards the end of the 18th century, the practice of giving gifts to family members became well established. Theologically, the feast day reminded Christians of God’s gift of Jesus to mankind even as the coming of the Wise Men, or Magi, to Bethlehem suggested that Christmas was somehow related to giving gifts. When we speak about gifting, the image of Santa Claus comes to mind without any effort. The name and attire— of Santa Claus reveal his Christian roots, and his role of querying children about their past behaviour replicates that of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra, was known for his generosity and kindness which gave rise to legends of miracles he executed for the poor and people in need of help. In the Middle Ages, devotion to Nicholas extended to all parts of Europe. Nicholas’s miracles were a favourite subject for medieval artists and liturgical plays.

He was adopted as Santa Claus by the English-speaking majority, and his legend of a kindly old man was united with old folktales of a magician who punished naughty children and rewarded good children with presents. The resulting image of Santa Claus in the United States crystallized in the 19th century, and he has ever since remained the patron of the gift-giving festival of Christmas. 
Santa Claus

If I talk about my own experience of the Christmas celebration, I remember enacting a play about Christ birth in my school, which was the only missionary school in the small university town of Haryana. We children were taken to the church too to enact the same drama in the church. We all used to love the goodies which we receive after giving our performance in the church. The thunderous sound of clapping is still reverberating in my ears as I am recollecting those memories. It is usually done on 24th December. On 25th December, in severe cold, we friends decked up in our festive attires used to go to our school teacher’s homes to wish them “Merry Christmas”. It was great fun!

When my children were young, they used to keep those long socks to be filled with goodie, where we as parents used to be the Santa, just as my parents were when we were small. The difference was that my mom used to stitch the socks (it was not available off the shelf in those days) and I got them from the market. 

My granddaughter decorating a reusable Christmas tree which the family had for almost 7 years now. 13 more to go. 😊

Just as Diwali celebrations are incomplete without traditional Indian sweets, Christmas feasting is synonymous with baking. The cakes and cookies top the goodies for Christmas. It’s time to wine and dine and have great fun with family and friends! Usually, the Christmas cakes and baked goodies are ordered from the well-known bakeries of the city but this year my vote goes to home bakers. If you really need a customized treat, look for home bakers. The freshly churned-out cakes which are not run of the mill but have something special adds to the fun and joy of celebrating the festivities with family. 

Plum Cake

This year, a lot more emphasis is being given to green celebrations. This is the time of peak consumption and our wastage level increases by 25-30 %. With little effort, an environmentally friendly celebration can be planned.  

The best kind of Christmas tree is the one with the roots. :) Though the plastic trees sold in the market are said to be reusable year after year, studies show that they need to be used for 20 years to be of greener choice. These are made of non-degradable petroleum products and use up resources in making and transporting too. So get a real tree this year. 

Use twigs, berries, dried flowers, and rosemary leaves for decoration on the Xmas table. Avoid using plastic decorations. Let your menu have locally grown veggies and fruits. Moving a step ahead, use edible decorations like Christmas treepie, rose cookies, attractive salad bowls as a menu which also create eye-catching decoration on the table.

Upcycle old bottles as candle stands. Renew your decoration pieces by repainting them, use old clothes to make new cushion covers, and brighten up the party space. Change your furniture setting and the room looks different and ready for the festival. Add a few more planters here and there, they bring life to any room. With Omicron on the prowl, it is better to celebrate this year with close family. Use technology to connect with your larger community. 

Christmas Feast

While deciding on a gift, think about the carbon footprints. Go for local, homegrown brands. Experiential gifting is the new in-thing. Make cards at home. Involve children to make cards and party invitations. 

Decorative cookies.


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